Archive for March, 2011


A Hot Time on the Old Plate Tonight

Monday, March 21st, 2011

WALL STREET JOURNAL REVIEWS CHASING CHILES!

Chasing Chiles: Hot Spots Along the Pepper Trail by Kurt Michael Friese, Kraig Kraft, and Gary Paul Nabhan, was reviewed this weekend in the Wall Street Journal. Read Aram Bakshian Jr.’s assesment here, and see a sample below.

Ancient Mexicans were gathering and eating chile peppers 9,000 years ago, but the pungent pods didn’t make it to the rest of the world until Christopher Columbus introduced them in the early 16th century. Since then chiles have become an intricate part of cuisines as varied as those of Spain, Hungary, Turkey and Indochina. The authors of “Chasing Chiles”—Kurt Michael Friese (a chef), Kraig Kraft (an agroecologist) and Gary Paul Nabhan (an ethnobotanist)—observe that the chile has served as a vegetable (think grilled or stuffed peppers), a condiment (Tabasco), a pest repellent, a medicine (in parts of Africa chiles are a remedy for piles, though the cure may be worse than the disease) and even the poison on an archer’s arrow tip. All of which explains why more than 25 million metric tons of chili peppers are harvested annually world-wide.The authors of “Chasing Chiles” bring an interesting mix of perspectives to their subject as they take readers on a year-long road trip, visiting America’s pepper-growing states and Mexico’s chile zones in a van dubbed The Spice Ship…

Continue reading at WSJ.com.

Chasing Chiles is available now and on sale through March 31st!

Do Americans Have What It Takes to Stand Up to Corporate Power, and Does Wisconsin Offer Hope?

Monday, March 21st, 2011

by Susan Warner, Senior Editor, Chelsea Green Publishing

In December 2009, Bruce Levine penned a provocative article on AlterNet entitled “Are Americans a Broken People?” The piece touched a nerve among those who identify themselves as progressive, libertarian, or populist and quickly went viral across the Web. Many respondents and media members who later interviewed Levine wondered why so many Americans have remained passive in the face of attacks on their liberties and their economic well-being.

In his latest book, Get Up, Stand Up: Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeated, and Battling the Corporate Elite, Levine has delved deeper into the cultural forces that have created a politically passive U.S. population. He questions whether “learned helplessness” has taken hold, keeping many Americans locked into an abuse syndrome of sorts. And most importantly, he suggests what can be done to turn this demoralization around. We chatted about his book and some recent efforts by Americans to in fact “get up and stand up.”

Susan Warner: If the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are so unpopular, why aren’t people protesting more?

Bruce Levine: Most Americans feel they have no power over whether or not the U.S. invades another nation or for how long it will be occupied. Many Americans know that their government is run by “corporate collaborators” who don’t pay attention to their opinions on wars and other big-money issues that large corporations care about. So although polls show the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have become increasingly unpopular—a clear majority of Americans now oppose them—fewer people are protesting against them.

Actually, more protests occurred against these wars when they were more popular. Remember back in February 2003, when many Americans still believed the U.S. government’s “weapons of mass destruction” rationale for the invasion of Iraq? Even though the invasion was a more popular idea back then, there were many large demonstrations against the then-imminent war, including 500,000 protesting in New York City. Even larger protests took place in Europe, with a London protest of more than 2 million, the largest demonstration ever there. But Americans’ voices and the voices of the people of Great Britain, our junior partner in the Iraq invasion, were of little concern to politicians.

Americans got the message. Their opinion may matter on issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage or other issues that the corporate-government partnership—or the “corporatocracy”—doesn’t care about, but their opinion is ignored when it comes to issues where real money is involved, such as wars and the Wall Street bailout.

SW: What can you say to frustrated anti-war activists?

BL: Anti-war activists—and other activists—routinely become frustrated when truths about lies, victimization, and oppression don’t set people free to take action. But as a psychologist who has worked with abused people for more than 25 years, it does not surprise me to see that when we as individuals or a society eat crap for too long, we gradually lose our self-respect to the point that we become psychologically too weak to take action.

Other observers of subjugated societies have recognized this phenomenon. Paulo Freire, the Brazilian educator and author of Pedagogy of the Oppressed, understood this reality, and so did Bob Marley, who is sort of the poet laureate of oppressed people of the world. Many Americans are embarrassed to accept that we, too, after years of domestic corporatocracy subjugation, have developed what Marley calls “mental slavery.” But unless we acknowledge that reality, we won’t begin to heal from what I call “battered people’s syndrome” and “corporatocracy abuse.” In Get Up, Stand Up I explain how this can be done, including how people let go of the fear of resistance.

Continue reading this interview on Alternet.

Bruce Levine’s Get Up, Stand Up is available for preorder now, and will ship in late March.

Our Hero: Joan Dye Gussow

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

The following article was written by Leslie Hatfield of EcoCentric, a blog about food, water, and energy – where this piece originally appeared.

Like many of the women I admire most, Joan Gussow has a bit of an edge to her.  One gets the impression that she doesn’t gladly suffer fools.  But as an avid gardener and longtime professor of nutrition at Columbia University’s Teachers College, she is also a world-class nurturer and a mentor to many, including Michael Pollan, whose quote on the back of Joan’s latest book, Growing, Older, reads:

“Once in a while, I think I’ve had an original thought, then I look and read around and realize Joan said it first.”

Joan is also a practice in dichotomy – though she bemoans new media for its “misinformation pollution” and is known best for her expertise in that old-timey tradition of subsistence farming (though on an extremely small scale), she is also an unrepentantly radical thinker and the first person I ever heard speak coherently about nanotechnology.

For the uninitiated, Joan Gussow is known as the matriarch of the local food movement.  She and her late husband Alan began growing most of their food in their backyard decades ago. She wrote a memoir about the experience that included recipes but also told the story of our broken food system — never too preciously — in a way that connected it to her life, but also couched it in the context of larger environmental and economic systems.

The first time I met her (in 2008, I think), Joan had agreed to host a group of food activists at her home.  I was thrilled to finally lay eyes on the garden I’d spent so much time picturing while reading her first book, This Organic Life, and I was struck by how close the reality of it was to my mental images — a testament to her descriptive prose. (We made a short video that day, you can view it here.)

One year ago this week, Joan’s garden was devastated by a massive storm and flood.  It wasn’t the first time; the garden, shaped like a bathtub and fenced in on each side, had flooded each year since she and Alan first broke ground on the edge of the Hudson River. The damage was more serious than ever before, but this time, she could rectify the situation. Her neighbor had torn down his house and had yet to build a new one, so for the first time since she’d owned the property, there existed a land-based route to her backyard that wouldn’t involve thousands of wheelbarrows full of dirt, and thus existed the potential to fill in the bathtub-ness, once and for all.

Maybe it’s Joan’s connection to the garden and its inhabitants, which, as she notes in this video, “always seem to hang in there.” Or maybe Joan Gussow is just a tough old bird (or more aptly, a phoenix) who really does have a bit of an edge to her.

After last year’s storm – and anyone who has ever tended a garden could guess this – Joan was devastated. Foodies rallied. My good friend Kerry Trueman and her husband Matt Rosenberg built this website, where donations — monetary and in-kind — were encouraged and her legion of fans expressed their support. McEnroe Farms generously donated a great deal of high quality top soil. Soon, Joan had the resources to rebuild her garden and raise it by several feet. Joan saved what she could of what was in the ground and hired a local landscaper who had the machinery necessary for what was turning out to be a major undertaking. A skilled group came from the Stone Barns Center and in the style of an old-fashioned barn raising, put everything back.

Continue reading the full article at EcoCentric.

Joan Dye Gussow’s Growing, Older is available now.

Atomic Energy: Climate Fix…or Folly?

Saturday, March 19th, 2011

Nuclear power is on everyone’s minds at the moment as our eyes remain fixed on the crisis in Japan. Earth Island Journal printed the following debate on nuclear energy between Stewart Brand and Amory Lovins in their Winter 2011 issue. Amory is co-author of a forthcoming book from Chelsea Green, due out in fall of 2011, entitled Reinventing Fire.

Nuclear vs. Renewables

In the 1970s and 80s, halting the expansion of nuclear power was a key priority for many environmental groups. But with global greenhouse gas levels continuing to rise, some greens say that carbon-free nuclear power plants deserve a second look. In an energy-hungry world, is splitting the atom smarter than burning fossil fuels? Stewart Brand thinks so, and says that concerns about nuclear waste are overwrought. Amory Lovins disagrees, arguing that cheaper, faster, more effective, more secure climate and energy solutions can deliver the services the world needs.

Nuclear Power is Safe, Sound…and Green
by Stewart Brand

Since he first published the seminal Whole Earth Catalog in 1968, Stewart Brand has been a leading thinker about how to create an ecologically sustainable society. More recently, he has been encouraging environmentalists to rethink their opposition to geo-engineering, transgenic crops, and nuclear power.

For the definite word on how much to worry about climate change, environmentalists in American have taken to relying on James Hansen, NASA’s outspoken climatologist. When Hansen declared that we must not settle for leveling off carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at 450 parts per million (ppm) but must take the level down from the current 387 ppm to 350 ppm or lower, the new environmentalist slogan became “350!”

Environmentalists take no notice of Hansen’s views on nuclear power, however. As President Obama was taking office, Hansen wrote him an open letter suggesting new policy to deal with the climate crisis. Hansen proposed what America needed: a carbon tax “across all fossil fuels at their source”; the phasing out of all coal-fired plants; and “urgent R&D on 4th generation nuclear power, with international cooperation.” He warned: “The danger is that the minority of vehement anti-nuclear ‘environmentalists’ could cause development of advanced safe nuclear power to be slowed such that utilities are forced to continue coal-burning in order to keep the lights on. That is a prescription for disaster.”

Environmentalists have much less to fear from the current nuclear power industry than they think, and much more to gain from new and planned reactor designs than they realize. Hansen is right: Nukes are Green. Here’s how. …more…

Nuclear Nonsense
by Amory B. Lovins

Dubbed one of the world’s 100 Most Influential People by TIME, physicist Amory Lovins has spent 40 years integrating radical energy efficiency with renewable supply. He is cofounder, chairman, and chief scientist of Rocky Mountain Institute, an independent “think-and-do tank” that drives the efficient and restorative use of resources.

I have known Stewart Brand as a friend for many years. I have admired his original and iconoclastic work, which has had a significant impact. In his new book, Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto, he argues that environmentalists should change their thinking about nuclear power, and predicts that I won’t accept his nuclear reassessment. He is quite right, because I believe its conclusions are greatly mistaken.

Stewart’s nuclear chapter’s facts and logic do not hold up to scrutiny. Over the past few years I’ve sent him five technical papers focused mainly on nuclear power’s comparative economics and performance. He says he’s read them, and even summarizes part of their economic thesis in his book. Yet he then says, “We Greens are not economists,” and disclaims knowledge of economics, saying environmentalists use it only as a weapon to stop projects. Today, most dispassionate analysts think new nuclear power plants’ deepest flaw is their economics. They cost too much to build and incur too much financial risk. Nuclear expansion therefore can’t deliver on its claims: It would reduce and retard climate protection, because it saves between two and 20 times less carbon per dollar, 20 to 40 times slower, than investing in efficiency and micropower. …more…

Read the original article at EarthIsland.org. Image above left courtesy of Rocky Mountain Institute.

To learn more about Reinventing Fire, visit RMI’s website and check back soon.

The Myth of U.S. Democracy and the Reality of U.S. Corporatocracy

Friday, March 18th, 2011

Bruce Levine’s new book is Get Up, Stand Up: Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeated, and Battling the Corporate Elite, releasing later this month. The following piece, written by Bruce, appeared originally on The Huffington Post.

Polls show that on the major issues of our time — the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, Wall Street bailouts and health insurance — the opinion of We the People has been ignored on a national level for quite some time. While the corporate media repeats the myth that the United States of America is a democracy, Americans, especially Wisonsiners and Ohioans, know that this is a joke.

On March 3, 2011, a Rasmussen Reports poll declared that “Most Wisconsin voters oppose efforts to weaken collective bargaining rights for union workers.” This of course didn’t stop Wisconsin Governor Walker and the Wisconsin legislature from passing a bill that — to the delight of America’s ruling class — trashed most collective bargaining rights of public employee unions. Similarly in Ohio, legislation to limit collective bargaining rights for public workers is on the verge of being signed into law by Governor Kasich, despite the fact that Public Policy Polling on March 15, 2011 reported that 54 percent of Ohio voters would repeal the law, while 31 percent would keep it.

It is a myth that the United States of America was ever a democracy (most of the famous founder elite such as John Adams equated democracy with mob rule and wanted no part of it). The United States of America was actually created as a republic, in which Americans were supposed to have power through representatives who were supposed to actually represent the American people. The truth today, however, is that the United States is neither a democracy nor a republic. Americans are ruled by a corporatocracy: a partnership of “too-big-to-fail” corporations, the extremely wealthy elite, and corporate-collaborator government officials.

The reality is that Americans, for quite some time, have opposed the U.S. government’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but We the People have zero impact on policy. On March 10-13, 2011, an ABC News/Washington Post poll asked, “All in all, considering the costs to the United States versus the benefits to the United States, do you think the war in Afghanistan has been worth fighting, or not?”; 64 percent said “not worth fighting” and 31 percent said “worth fighting.” A February 11, 2011, CBS poll reported Americans’ response to the question, “Do you think the U.S. is doing the right thing by fighting the war in Afghanistan now, or should the U.S. not be involved in Afghanistan now?”; only 37 percent of Americans said the U.S. “is doing the right thing” and 54 percent said we “should not be involved.” When a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll on December 17-19, 2010, posed the question, “Do you favor or oppose the U.S. war in Afghanistan?” only 35 percent of Americans favored the war while 63 percent opposed it. For several years, the majority of Americans have also opposed the Iraq war, typified by a 2010 CBS poll which reported that 6 out of 10 Americans view the Iraq war as “a mistake.”

The opposition by the majority of Americans to current U.S. wars has remained steady for several years. However, if you watched only the corporate media’s coverage of the 2010 election between Democratic and Republican corporate-picked candidates, you might not even know that America was involved in two wars — two wars that are not only opposed by the majority of Americans but which are also bankrupting America.

How about the 2008 Wall Street bailout? Even when Americans believed the lie that it was only a $700 billion bailout, they opposed it; but their opinion was irrelevant. In September 2008, despite the corporate media’s attempts to terrify Americans into believing that an economic doomsday would occur without the bailout, Americans still opposed it. A Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll in September 2008, asked, “Do you think the government should use taxpayers’ dollars to rescue ailing private financial firms whose collapse could have adverse effects on the economy and market, or is it not the government’s responsibility to bail out private companies with taxpayers’ dollars?”; only 31 percent of Americans said we should “use taxpayers” dollars while 55 percent said it is “not government’s responsibility.” Also in September 2008, both a CBSNews/New York Times poll and a USA Today/Gallup poll showed Americans opposed the bailout. This disapproval of the bailout was before most Americans discovered that the Federal Reserve had loaned far more money to “too-big-to-fail” corporations than Americans had been originally led to believe (The Wall Street Journal reported on December 1, 2010, “The US central bank on Wednesday disclosed details of some $3.3 trillion in loans made to financial firms, companies and foreign central banks during the crisis.”)

What about health insurance? Despite the fact that several 2009 polls showed that Americans actually favored a “single-payer” or “Medicare-for-all” health insurance plan, it was not even on the table in the Democrat-Republican 2009-2010 debate over health insurance reform legislation. And polls during this debate showed that an even larger majority of Americans favored the government providing a “public option” to compete with private health insurance plans, but the public option was quickly pushed off the table in the Democratic-Republican debate. A July 2009 Kaiser Health Tracking poll asked, “Do you favor or oppose having a national health plan in which all Americans would get their insurance through an expanded, universal form of Medicare-for-all?” In this Kaiser poll, 58 percent of Americans favored a Medicare-for-all universal plan, and only 38 percent opposed it — and a whopping 77 percent favored “expanding Medicare to cover people between the ages of 55 and 64 who do not have health insurance.” A February 2009 CBS News/New York Times poll reported that 59 percent of Americans say the government should provide national health insurance. And a December 2009 Reuters poll reported that, “Just under 60 percent of those surveyed said they would like a public option as part of any final healthcare reform legislation.”

In the U.S. corporatocracy, as in most modern tyrannies, there are elections, but the reality is that giant corporations and the wealthy elite rule in a way to satisfy their own self-interest. In elections in a corporatocracy, as is the case in elections in all tyrannies, it’s in the interest of the ruling class to maintain the appearance that the people have a say, so more than one candidate is offered up. In the U.S. corporatocracy, it’s in the interest of corporations and the wealthy elite that the winning candidate is beholden to them, so they financially support both Democrats and Republicans. It’s in the interest of corporations and the wealthy elite that there are only two viable parties–this cuts down on bribery costs. And it’s in the interest of these two parties that they are the only parties with a chance of winning.

In the U.S. corporatocracy, corporations and the wealthy elite directly and indirectly finance candidates, who are then indebted to them. It’s common for these indebted government officials to appoint to key decision-making roles those friendly to corporations, including executives from these corporations. And it’s routine for high-level government officials to be rewarded with high-paying industry positions when they exit government. It’s common and routine for former government officials to be given high-paying lobbying jobs so as to use their relationships with current government officials to ensure that corporate interests will be taken care of.

The integration between giant corporations and the U.S. government has gone beyond revolving doors of employment (exemplified by George W. Bush’s last Treasury secretary, Henry Paulson, who had previously been CEO of Goldman Sachs; and Barack Obama’s first chief economic adviser, Lawrence Summers who in 2008 received $5.2 million from hedge fund D. E. Shaw). Nowadays, the door need not even revolve in the U.S. corporatocracy; for example, when President Obama earlier in 2011 appointed General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt as a key economic advisor, Immelt kept his job as CEO of General Electric.

The United States is not ruled by a single deranged dictator but by an impersonal corporatocracy. Thus, there is no one tyrant that Americans can first hate and then finally overthrow so as to end senseless wars and economic injustices. Revolutions against Qaddafi-type tyrants require enormous physical courage. In the U.S. corporatocracy, the first step in recovering democracy is the psychological courage to face the humiliation that we Americans have neither a democracy nor a republic but are in fact ruled by a partnership of “too-big-to-fail” corporations, the extremely wealthy elite, and corporate-collaborator government officials.

Read the original article at HuffingtonPost.com.

Get Up, Stand Up is available for pre-order now.

The Adult Conversation About Nuclear Power Needs to Start

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

by Bob Cavnar, author of Disaster on the Horizon: High Stakes, High Risks, and the Story Behind the Deepwater Well Blowout

The earthquake and resulting tsunami in Japan shocked us this weekend as we watched with horrified fascination as walls of water destroyed thousands of homes and killed countless people. 

In a country that experiences dozens of earthquakes a year, this particular disaster was beyond any scale ever contemplated by the compulsively disciplined and always prepared Japanese people, but they never lost their stoic presence and seemingly unlimited patience even as their well ordered lives and basic services disappeared before their eyes. 

That stoicism, though, has begun to fade as the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant continues for a a sixth day.  Evacuations of the area around the plant have now spread to 20 kilometers with warnings out to 30 kilometers. 

As the reality of the unfolding disaster became apparent, many people fled as far as Tokyo to escape the still developing crisis.  Panic began to creep into Tokyo, 150 miles south of the stricken plant, as increased radiation levels were detected yesterday.  Flights out of Japan are now jammed as people have begun to flee the country over radiation fears and collapsing infrastructure.  It’s the doomsday scenario many have feared for ages.

There’s nothing like a natural disaster such as an earthquake or hurricane to make us realize that we really aren’t in control of our own personal destiny.  These events also cause us to reflect on how our own decisions as a society may actually exacerbate the long term effects of a disaster (such as building a city below sea level, then not properly protecting it against storm surges).  In the case of this particular disaster, serious reflection has begun as questions are once again being raised about the wisdom of the use of nuclear power to generate base load electricity in many countries around the world, especially those in quake zones.  It’s now all over the media; some dismiss the concerns as hyperbole and others cry that it’s the end of the world; however, many serious people are having that tough discussion about how we fuel our energy future if we don’t use nuclear power.

Here’s our particular problem:  The United States, through weak leadership, short sightedness caused by our 2 year re-election cycle and the influence of corporate money, has utterly failed to establish a long term vision for our energy future.  Band aid solutions, special interest legislation, and poor judgement have taken us into the 21st century with 60 to 100 year old technology and energy sources, and no one has the courage to call this insanity, well, insanity.  The result is predictable, clearly demonstrating that our dependence on foreign oil from countries who hate us is suicidal.  The ongoing unrest in Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, and even Saudi Arabia has highlighted this risk.  Our dependence on oil has driven us into the deepwater of the Gulf of Mexico and into the Arctic to feed our gluttony.  At the same time, de-regulation and industry complacency led to the inevitable result of the blowout of the BP Macondo well and the ongoing environmental catastrophe that the media and politicians are happy to ignore.  Speaking of ignorance, we are also willfully oblivious to the very obvious signs of limited worldwide oil reserves as well as the damage that we are doing to our own environment by our huge carbon footprint.  Elected representatives, looking for cheap political points, give lip service to climate change, renewables, conservation, and sustainable energy sources while taking money from oil companies and actually doing nothing, except for allowing the same old policies that got us here in the first place to continue.

Which brings us to nuclear power.  This is really the only non-carbon energy source that has any hope of stemming the tide of oil and coal consumption.  But it has its obvious inherent dangers.  Why does Japan use nuclear power?  The answer is simple: they have to.  Japan has no significant sources of hydrocarbon energy, so must use nuclear to avoid dependence on other countries for oil, gas, or coal.  However, the problem is that the whole damn country is an earthquake zone, not the best environment for a technology that doesn’t react well (no pun intended) when it’s shaken around a bit and flooded with seawater.  These same issues are faced by many nuclear powered countries, including us.

So what do we do?  This is where being an adult comes into play.  As adults, we need to consider that our world has limited resources, limited atmosphere, and limited space.  And it’s getting more crowded and dirty.  Hydrocarbons simply can’t fill all of our energy need.  Renewables can’t fill enough of our energy need.  Natural gas, which is becoming more abundant, has become a great answer for a lot of our needs, but for the long run we still need non-carbon based energy to make our hydrocarbon resources last longer and be more environment friendly.   Nuclear fills that place, but clearly we’re not to the point where it is fool-proof safe.  It’s time that we all assess our own personal uses of carbon based fuels, and pressure our elected representatives to do something besides bashing the other side to get re-elected.  It’s also time that we demand they they also act like adults and responsibly address the issues around nuclear power design, construction, and operation, as well as the safety of that and other energy technologies.

Call your Congressperson, your Senator, your Governor, and your mayor.  Tell them you want a comprehensive energy policy that’s neither Drill, Baby, Drill, or sticking their heads in the sand.  Only when pressure from the People is unrelenting will they perhaps get off their collective backside do something courageous.  They won’t do it by themselves.

Read the original article on The Daily Hurricane.

Bob Cavnar’s Disaster on the Horizon is available now.

A Call to Action: The 350 Home & Garden Challenge

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

We’re proud to partner with and support the efforts of Transition U.S. by encouraging you, our readers, to take part in the 350 Home & Garden Challenge this May.

Please take a moment to learn more about this incredible weekend of community action and earth stewardship, and then sign up to be an organizer where you live.

On a single weekend, May 14th & 15th, thousands of landscapes and homes will be transformed, retrofitted and revitalized as part of the 350 Home & Garden Challenge. Thousands of us will take to the streets, the garden, schoolyard, home, apartment and city hall to take actions big and small. We will grow food, conserve water, save energy and build community. Amidst a dizzying array of crises and mounting despair, together we will bring the hope of transition and show what we are capable of with our heads, hearts and hands aligned in action. It’s time for action, rooted in a shared vision and voice.Transition US is committed to enabling action-oriented programs at the national level.  The 350 Home and Garden Challenge is just such an opportunity. Inspired by the the amazing work done in Sonoma County, CA last May where over 600 gardens were planted, we have decided to make this available to Transition communities across the US this May 14th & 15th.

In coordination with our friends in Sonoma County we are going to help make it as easy as possible for YOU to bring this incredible challenge to your community. One of the reasons Transition US was founded is because we recognize the power of the collective. This is the perfect opportunity for Transition communities across the country to come together on a single weekend and show their solidarity.

Organizing a 350 Home & Garden Challenge in your town (or city, village, county, parish, island) not only helps raise awareness and continue to build local resiliency, it offers an opportunity for your citizens to be a part of something much larger.

So what exactly is the 350 Home & Garden Challenge?
You as an Individual in your community identify a specific project in one of the four challenge areas: Food, Water, Energy and Community or volunteer on a community project — either way, we challenge you to get involved and make a difference. All we ask is that you register your project so we can show the world just how powerful we are as a movement.

>> Download the 350 Challenge Overview(PDF) to learn more, and feel free to share it with your friends.

Sign-up as a Community Organizer.  What we learned last year is that success at the community level really was due to the efforts of an organizing team.  With this in mind we are creating a “toolkit” to help these organizing teams be successful.  This is another path to participation and we are looking for one person from each Transition community to sign up as a Community Organizer.  This doesn’t mean you have to do it yourself (what fun would that be?).  We just need one person from each Transition community to be a key point of contact.

Once you sign up you will gain access to a comprehensive toolkit that will walk you through all the things you need to know to make this as success.  These tools come straight from the folks in Sonoma County who, in 15 short weeks, made giant strides in forging everlasting partnerships with local governments, businesses, non-profits, and thousands of citizens.  Transition US will be hosting dozens of open conference calls between now and May 14th to help guide you and connect you with other organizers across the country.  Please send us an email if you have any questions otherwise click the link below and sign up as an organizer today.

>> Community Organizer Sign-up here

To learn more about the Transition Movement, check out Rob Hopkins’ book, The Transition Handbook, in our bookstore now.

Foreword Book of the Year Awards

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

The exciting awards news just keeps on coming!

We’re delighted that two of our books have been selected as finalists for Foreword Magazine’s 2010 Book of the Year Awards. Over 1,400 books were judged in 56 subject categories this year by Foreword‘s panel of librarians and booksellers.

The two honored finalists are Bob Cavnar’s Disaster on the Horizon: High Stakes, High Risks, and the Story Behind the Deepwater Well Blowout, which was selected in the Environment category, and Robert Kuttner’s A Presidency In Peril: The Inside Story of Obama’s Promise, Wall Street’s Power, and the Struggle to Control our Economic Future, chosen in the Political Science category. Nominated books were evaluated based on the following criteria: Editorial excellence; Intent of book met by author; Originality of subject matter; Accuracy; Author credentials; and Professional packaging. Winners will be announced in June 2011, so stayed tuned!

About the Awards:

ForeWord Reviews’ Book of the Year Awards were established to bring increased attention to librarians and booksellers of the literary and graphic achievements of independent publishers and their authors. ForeWord is the only review trade journal devoted exclusively to books from independent houses.Our unique awards process brings readers, librarians, and booksellers together to select their top categories as well as choose the winning titles. Their decisions are based on editorial excellence, professional production, originality of the narrative, author credentials relative to the book, and the value the book adds to its genre.

About Foreword:

Since 1998, ForeWord Reviews has been one of the publishing industry’s most respected print magazine and online review service for readers, booksellers, book buyers, publishing insiders, and librarians. ForeWord is published six times a year and each issue reaches an audience of 26,000 librarians and booksellers.As a review service for small and independent publishers, ForeWord influences the buying decisions of booksellers and librarians across the United States and Canada. In addition to the magazine, ForeWord’s website receives nearly 10,000 unique visitors a month.

ForeWord Reviews employs professional freelance reviewers from all over the United States and Canada. In addition to their day jobs at universities and public libraries, many of them also review for our peer journals.

Energy Bulletin Review: Disaster on the Horizon

Monday, March 14th, 2011

by Frank Kaminski

It’s been nearly six months since BP Plc.’s runaway oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, which caused the largest unintentional offshore spill on record, was finally deemed “effectively dead.” And those six months have brought almost as many books on the disaster. Bob Cavnar’s Disaster on the Horizon has a particular ring of authenticity, and I suspect that’s because he’s the only author so far to have spent a career in the oil and gas drilling business—including many years aboard rigs like the doomed Deepwater Horizon.

But at the same time, I have a feeling that any book written this soon after the disaster is jumping the gun, since the spill’s aftereffects have barely begun to rear their ugly heads. It will be decades, if not lifetimes, before we know the full impact on the Gulf’s ecosystem, the well-being of all who eat or harvest its seafood, the health of those who cleaned its beaches in loathsome conditions or the economies of the Gulf states.

Cavnar clearly gets this; he writes in the book’s concluding chapter, “We will likely never know the true extent of the damage to the Gulf.” He doesn’t pretend to have any answers regarding the spill’s long-term impacts. Rather, he brings his expertise to bear on the matter of what caused the explosion and the simultaneous failure of every one of the Horizon’s safety systems on the night of April 20, 2010, leaving 11 dead and 17 injured, as well as setting off the unprecedented spill.

The Deepwater Horizon spill was a horrendous dose of reality, bringing into sharp focus just how risky deepwater drilling remains even with today’s technology. That’s the gist of Disaster on the Horizon. The book reveals how the tools of deepwater drilling have grown more sophisticated but not really more reliable—Cavnar likens drilling on the seafloor to driving a car from the back seat. And technologies for cleaning up spills have advanced barely at all, since companies haven’t wanted to spend the money to make the necessary investments. Worst of all, as much as we may now want to simply shut down all American offshore and deepwater production, that isn’t an option. Close to one-third of our domestic energy supply comes from offshore, and 80 percent of that third is from deep water.

In assembling the Horizon’s story, Cavnar relies largely on testimony given during the federal investigation into the disaster. When the Transocean Ltd.-owned and BP-operated Horizon came to grief, it was drilling an exploratory well in the Macondo Prospect, nearly a mile underwater off the Louisiana coast. Dubbed the “well from hell,” this well had been embattled from the start. It had severely tested the skill and nerves of the rig’s crew with gas kicks, hole problems, “dangerous lost circulation zones” and other early warning signs of trouble. And then, at just before 10 p.m. on April 20, for reasons still unknown, the critical blowout preventer (BOP) failed to seal off the well when it started gushing oil, leading to the fateful events of that night.

The failed BOP was only one in a long list of mechanical failures that night. The deadman, which automatically shuts in the well if communication is lost between the BOP and the rig, also was inoperable. Gas sensors were inhibited, and emergency shutdowns for engines weren’t working. Even the general alarm and emergency disconnect systems were out; and phones and radios were dead. Eleven months since that terrible day, experts still don’t know why all of these systems broke down.

Continue reading this review at Energy Bulletin.

Bob Cavnar’s Disaster on the Horizon: High Stakes, High Risks, and the Story Behind the Deepwater Well Blowout, is available now.

Chanterelles

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

The following is excerpted from the first chapter of Chanterelle Dreams, Amanita Nightmares: The Love, Lore, and Mystique of Mushrooms, by Greg Marley. It appeared originally online at Alternet.org.

There are certain diverse pleasures that mark summer in New England. The Fourth of July parade with sirens, banners, bands blaring, and sunburned toddlers scrambling for candy tossed from passing floats is, to some, a signal of the formal shift from late spring to full summer. For others, the first raking of Maine blueberries in early August ushers in the midpoint of the season when we no longer need to explore the depths of the freezer for berries to make a pie or cobbler. For those of a fungal bent, summer’s true arrival cannot be acknowledged until the first chanterelles poke warm golden caps from beneath their leafy covers. Of course, being mushrooms, with all the predictability of a Siamese cat, the date on which summer arrives in the guise of my first chanterelle omelet can vary a fair bit from year to year, strongly dependent upon the vagaries of weather. Here on the coast of Maine we can generally count on the first harvest by the second week in July, after the strawberries and before the first blueberries.

There are undoubtedly many reasons why chanterelles are at the top of the mushroom heap in popularity, but chief among them is their great flavor. Other reasons are their relatively common occurrence in Maine’s woods and the ease of identification. The combination of vase shape, bright golden coloration, and blunted ridges in place of knife-like gills make chanterelles distinctive and easily discerned. The bright color and their habit of growing in scattered clusters make them easy to spot on the forest floor.

When I am walking through a forest looking for chanterelles, my eyes scan the woods in an arc of perhaps thirty yards, knowing that their bright coloration will shine out through the predominate greens and browns of the forest floor like stars in the black heavens. Once I spot the first mushroom, I slow my pace and examine the area around the first mushroom, carefully looking for other chanterelles. Since they fruit in groups, I often find others partially hidden in the leaves nearby. Contrast this searching style with morel hunting; there is a world of difference. Morels come into the world with all the camouflage of a motionless cottontail rabbit in the leaves. It almost requires that you feel one get crushed under your bare feet before your eyes can take it in. Even after spotting the first morel in an area, it requires careful, slow examination to see the others secreted in the nearby duff.

A third reason for chanterelles’ popularity as an edible is their predictability. They regularly fruit in the same location in successive years. In a good chanterelle habitat, I know which tree to check in the forest and which side of the tree to examine in order to find the same patch of chanterelles I have collected there a dozen times over the past twenty years. This personal observation mirrors the results of a long-term study on the impact of chanterelle harvesting carried out in a coastal forest by the Oregon Mycological Society. They also have recorded regular fruiting of the Pacific golden chanterelle in the same small area over many successive years.

Continue reading this excerpt on Alternet.

Check out Chanterelle Dreams, Amanita Nightmares in our bookstore now.


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